I’ve just spent the most wonderful (sunny!) day at the Centre for Wildlife Gardening (well worth a visit) with three of Garden Organic‘s fab staff and 18 other South London gardeners completing Day 1 of the Master Gardener induction. Which is good because the day started off with a wee bit of stress when First Capital Connect cancelled the train I’d planned to catch. Cue a quick sprint down the road and a rather expensive cab fare across South London!
Philip, Fiona and Anton from Garden Organic were absolutely brilliant, warm, welcoming, motivational, encouraging and inspirational. The programme was pretty full on from the welcome chat and refreshments we went straight into introducing ourselves. “What’s your name? Where are you from? What’s your favourite veg?” asked Philip and what a great icebreaker that was! The coriander connoisseurs, chard addicts and courgette devotees sharing smiles of recognition and already making allegiances across the room. (People did like veg and fruit other than those starting with C. Mulberries and loganberries were mentioned, among several others)!
From there we moved onto finding out exactly what we’d volunteered for: our role, what resources and support would be available – lots! We also got our first set of homework to complete: to read up on the volunteer agreements and policies and procedures in the manual we were given (I’ll get on that as soon as I finish this blog).
After a quick cup of tea, and more chatter came a great discussion about outreach and how to make those all important contacts with people. This was a joint session presented by Fiona and Maria, a lovely lady who was in one of the early Master Garden intakes and has been doing the role for 2 years. Lots of tactics that work and great ideas and plenty of enthusiasm in the room.
Then it was off outside, into fresh air and sunshine, for a hands-on demo from Philip about how to engage an audience with a practical demo of seed sowing and making paper pots. Much laughter here!
Then came a slap up lunch, pizza, salad and veggie rolls outdoors in the sunshine and we all had time to find out a bit more about each other, where we gardened and what we were interested in. Lots of people already actively involved in community gardening or other community activities, plenty wanting to do more, enthusiasm for permaculture and forest gardening and biodynamics and…and…and!
After chocolate cake it was back inside for a double session with Anton (with a pause for more tea) and a whistle-stop tour of what growing organically means (holistic, ecologically balanced approach), how to get the message across and what to do about pests and diseases when you can’t break out the chemical napalm. Again plenty of great discussion around the presentation and people sharing experiences and ideas.
The final session was a quick intro to the Master Gardener’s website and the regional Master Gardener’s websites.
Then it was time to say goodbye and head off home, with my two of my newly discovered colleagues, who both live within walking distance! Possibilities for very local support and collaboration on events I hope. Not to mention a lift in to tomorrow’s session since First Capital Connect apparently don’t run trains before 11am on Sunday through Tooting (what?!)
This evening I’m going to examine the swag we were sent away with: manuals, leaflets, catalogues and more! Oh no – the Garden Organic catalogue and Heritage Seed Library info. I’ve mentioned my inability to resist buying seeds haven’t I?
It’s good for the soul to spend time with people from a wide variety of backgrounds who’ve all taken incredibly different and varied paths but have ended up in the same place: with a passion and enthusiasm for plants, gardens, the environment and sustainability and more!